Monthly Archives: July 2016

THE TED VIDEOS AND ACTIVITIES HELP SCIENCE AND EDUCATION!

 

TED videos show great ideas inside and outside science! (http://dr-monsrs.net)
TED videos show great ideas inside and outside science! (http://dr-monsrs.net)

 

TED is a very successful information and education business originally formed to foster the spread of ‘great ideas in Technology, Entertainment, and Design’.  It now has greatly expanded to include ideas and issues in science, culture, education, and philosophy.  The video output by TED features short talks by experts, thinkers, and doers at the annual TED Conferences; these video presentations are freely available to a global audience on the web.  Videos showing TED Talks now have been viewed by billions and have achieved prominence in bringing science to the public, and bringing the public to science.  This success has led other organizations and distant countries to get licensed by TED to sponsor their own TED-like projects.

TED videos dealing with science are high-quality productions with direct relevance both to ordinary people having interest and curiosity about science and research, and to working research scientists.  In this article, I describe the organization of TED, summarize its many activities, explain how TED is financed, and discuss how a few TED videos with controversial ideas have been banned.

The organization of TED! 

TED as a business has been sold several times and now is a private nonprofit organization (see “Our organization” ).  The Sapling Foundation (New York, NY.), has been sponsoring the activities of TED since 2001 and offering free internet viewing of the Conference presentations since 2006 (see:  “History of TED” ).  The Chief Curator of TED activities since 2001, and owner of the Sapling Foundation, is Chris Anderson.  This media and publishing entrepreneur has considerably expanded the topics and activities of TED, resulting in greatly raising the number of viewers of TED videos and of attendees at its many different events.  The TED organization is global with  major branches in Europe and Asia, and employs over 100 staff workers within the U.S.

The TED Conference and TED Talks! 

The annual TED conferences continue their long tradition of enthusiastic gatherings.  Prospective attendees at the TED conferences must first be approved (see “Conferences” at:  https://www.ted.com/attend/conferences ), and then must pay an admission fee for the week-long event (see “TED Conference Standard membership” at:  https://www.ted.com/attend/conferences/ted-conference#h3–ted-conference-standard-membership ).  Invited speakers are selected by TED, and are not paid for their presentation.  Each 18-minute presentation is professionally recorded and subsequently published on the internet; videos of over 2,000 TED Talks now are available gratis to the public (see listings of TED Talks on science at:  https://www.ted.com/topics/science ).  New videos are published each week.  This huge collection of talks and performances now generates more activity than the main conference itself; the TED videos are seen as amplifiers of the conferences.  TED videos are thought to be watched by over a million people every single day!

Other TED activities!

A growing number of other programs and activities now are organized by TED (see:  http://www.ted.com/about/programs-initiatives ).  TED Global organizes international conferences with the TED format.  The TED Open Translation Project started in 2009  and aims to enable the billions of people not speaking the English language to watch TED videos.  Thousands of volunteer translators thus far have made numerous TED videos available in over 100 languages, thereby vastly increasing the outreach of the TED video collection.  The TEDx Program is focused on licensed TED-like events organized by local independent non-profit sponsors.  Some live presentations of music performances are included in the TEDxMusic project.  The very successful organizational concept for presentations at TED Conferences now has been expanded to include events for TEDxYouth, TEDxCorporate, and TEDxWomen.  Other newer official or independently licensed TED activities include TED Fellows (young persons who attend and later organize TED events in their native country), and TEDMED (sessions for health professionals).  Recordings from these other activities are added to the TED video catalog.

Newer TED activities (see:  http://www.ted.com/about/programs-initiatives ) include TED Books, which publishes shorter volumes in hard copy that can be read in one sitting.  TED-Ed presents conferences by teachers and students about new ideas to improve youthful education (see:  http://www.ted.com/about/programs-initiatives/ted-ed ); its output includes videos with lessons and pathways for many different levels of education in science and non-science.  TED sponsors the TED Prize for the developer of the most outstanding new idea for improving our modern world; the winner’s award currently is set at $1,000,000.

Financing to support all the TED activities and programs!

In 2017, each approved regular attendee at the TED Conference must pay $8,500 (see:  https://www.ted.com/attend/conferences/ted-conference#h3–ted-conference-standard-membership ).  Several levels of higher fees also exist.  With over 1,000 attendees at each annual Conference, this provides a very solid financial foundation for TED.  Corporate supporters of TED generally are very large companies; these are not involved in organizing the events or choosing the presenters.  Speakers at a TED Conference or other event receive no money for their participation.

Critical discussion about TED! 

My opinion is that TED is very good for science and science education!  Its videos furnish a giant opportunity for the public to see science and scientists as being something other than a Hollywood-type  amusement, and to learn about how the truth is sought by research activities in science.  The scientists presenting at TED conferences mostly overcome the difficult problems with bringing science to the poorly-educated adult public.

Certain TED video presentations feature ideas that are so provocative that they have been withheld from the TED catalog.  To view some actual examples, see listing by Ravindranath Shrivastava at:   https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2Y8qeLGzzd_P_5xxwDesKuyrAemRfxUk .  This kind of censorship is both unnecessary and worrisome, particularly with regard to science.  Controversy and questioning are inherent parts of scientific research, and are both expected and welcomed by scientists; these disputes serve a good purpose for science and society!

I believe that the controversies generated by a few TED speakers would be better understood and valued if pairs of opposing speakers, or panels of presenters and critical discussants, could hold forth at the TED conferences.  Opposing positions both should be given side-by-side instead of having only one individual presenting his/her viewpoint.

Several of the ‘banned TED videos’ still can be viewed, and those provide evidence suggesting that some things just are not seen rightly at TED.  It is good to note that the banned presenters and their critics sometimes subsequently offer non-TED videos with rebuttals, explanations, and discussions; these are freely available at Shrivastava’s listing (see above)!

Concluding remarks! 

The TED videos are indeed useful and very special!  TED makes a very good contribution to all of adult education in the modern world by enabling the public to obtain a much better awareness of new ideas, alternative solutions, and unconventional beliefs.  That is very beneficial both within science and outside science.  TED obviously should be highly praised for making all their videos available to the public without charge.

 

GO BACK TO HOME PAGE    OR    SCROLL UP TO MENU UNDER THE WEBSITE TITLE

 

DRAMATIC VIDEOS ABOUT SCIENTISTS AND SCIENCE! 

 

What does it take to become a famous scientist? (http://dr-monsrs.net)
What does it take to become a famous scientist?   (http://dr-monsrs.net)

 

The internet makes numerous videos about famous scientists available to all.  I have already recommended some as part of a group of biographical dispatches about the life of several renowned scientists (e.g., see:  “Scientists Tell Us About Their Life and Work, Part 8” ).  Many good videos showing interviews with awarded researchers are contained in the websites for the Nobel Prize  and the Kavli Prize ; these feature both their modern and older prizewinning scientists working in many different fields of science.  Here, I recommend a few fascinating videos about research scientists to get you started!

ANCIENT RESEARCH:  “How simple ideas lead to scientific discoveries” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8UFGu2M2gM ) is nicely presented by Adam Savage and features several amazing examples of excellent scientific research in ancient times.  Very informative and interesting!

RADIOACTIVITY AND FINDING NEW ELEMENTS:  “Marie and Pierre Curie (50 – Video special)”  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82Oj5qyY1F0 ) explains how these 2 European research scientists overcame many difficult problems in life and career to conduct investigations about the nature of radioactivity and to discover 2 new elements.  Modern scientists clearly are usually less dedicated and determined to working at research than were the Curie’s!  A delightful and inspiring video presentation!

DNA:  “(RARE) Interview with James Watson and Francis Crick” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGBDFq5Kaw0 ) shows a 1993 interview with the co-discoverers of DNA structure, Watson and Crick.  Both these extremely famous scientists speak with candor about their lives, careers, personalities, and science, including their current views about controversies and misunderstandings of events.  Bravo!

MATERIALS SCIENCE:  “Being a materials scientist at NASA Ames Research Center – Dr. Bin Chen Interview” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFOpYnRvsBE ) presents the life and research work of Dr. Bin Chen, a Principal Scientist at a NASA Center in California.  She presents very forthright answers about her education and earlier life in China, being a postdoc in the U.S., and finding a good job; her understanding of what it takes to be a research scientist is very similar to mine, and will be valuable watching for youngsters wondering about going into science.  Terrific!

NANOTECHNOLOGY AND MOLECULAR ENGINEERING:  “Bionanotechnology – New frontiers in molecular engineering: Andreas Mershin at TEDxAthens” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjV7NNwm1GU) shows a young research scientist dramatically describing what he does in research and how he does it (2013).  This is an excellent exposition for non-scientists and deals with a very current research approach, but unfortunately many slides are not enlarged for the video; viewers might want to interrupt the video to enlarge each of those.

Discussion! 

These videos vividly illustrate how: (1)  even the most renowned scientists really are just people, (2) ancient scientists successfully conducted important research investigations without having modern instruments and laboratory facilities, (3) all scientists are stimulated by curiosity and imagination, and, (4) persistent determination and dedication are extremely significant to achieve good results with scientific research.

Concluding remarks! 

These 5 recommended videos are just a small sample of what is available!  Please go ahead and find some other internet videos about scientists that deal with whatever interests you!  Have much fun exploring and learning!

 

GO BACK TO HOME PAGE    OR    SCROLL UP TO MENU UNDER THE WEBSITE TITLE

 

AMAZING NUMBERS ABOUT SCIENCE, RESEARCH, AND SCIENTISTS! 

 

Gigantic

The total science enterprise in the U.S. is humongous!   (http://dr-monsrs.net)

Although many are aware that science and technology are extensive, few people realize just how very large they are.  Everything from the number of scientists and engineers currently working, to the amount of money spent for research activities, are gigantic!  This article brings the latest official figures into view so that all of us can grasp the present size of the current science enterprise in the United States (U.S.); of course, the corresponding figures for global science are even larger.

How many scientists and engineers work here?  What do they work on? 

For 2012, there were 6.2 million scientists and engineers employed in the U.S.,  accounting for 4.8% of the total workforce [1].  56% worked in occupations involving  computers, 25% worked in engineering, and the remaining 19% were employed for many other categories of research (e.g., 2% worked in mathematical occupations) [1].

For which kind of employers do doctoral scientists work? 

Science and Engineering Indicators 2016 (see:  “National Science Foundation issues new report on status of science, engineering, and research!” ) documents that 70.1% of all employed doctoral scientists and engineers in 2013 worked in industries, and only 15.6% worked in academia/education; another 12.5% worked in governmental facilities [2].

How much money was spent by the federal government to support all the different research studies and activities in the U.S.?

A total of $132.5 billion was useds by the federal government to support all aspects and different activities for non-commercial research in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 [3].

Which branches of research receive the most federal funding support? 

For FY2014, research in life sciences, which includes biological, medical, and hospital studies, as well as agricultural investigations, received federal support of $30.7 billion [4].  Research with engineering received $11.9 billion, research in all physical sciences received $6.5 billion, and, research in computer science and mathematics received $3.9 billion in FY2014 [4].  In the same period, $65.0 billion was used to support all military research and development (R&D) activities by the Department of Defense [5].

How much money is spent by the government versus by industries to support research studies? 

In FY2013, U.S. commercial industries spent a grand total of over $322.5 billion to support all R&D activities by their scientists and engineers [6]; for the same period, agencies and programs of the U.S. federal government spent over $132.5 billion to support all the different aspects of non-business R&D [3].

Discussion! 

An extensive load of statistics for research support by the federal government is gathered and analyzed every year by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, and subsequently published by the National Science Foundation.  These yearly data listings are invaluable and used widely to analyze changes, identify imbalances, and reveal needs for intervention.

Using just the figures cited above [1-5], some interesting and surprising conclusions can be made.  (1) An enormous number of scientists and engineers work in the U.S.  (2) Over half of all scientists and engineers in the U.S. now are employed to work with computer science.  (3) The federal government spent $132.5 billion to support research studies in all the different branches of science during FY2014.  (4) Almost half of the total support funds from the U.S. government in modern years is used for biomedical, hospital, and agricultural research studies.  (5) Commercial concerns spend more for their R&D activities than the federal government expends to support non-commercial R&D.  (6) The grand total funding support for all R&D from both industrial and governmental sources was almost $0.5 trillion in FY2013.

Concluding remarks! 

My grand conclusion is that the size of the total budget and all activities for research and development in the U.S. during any recent year is nothing less than humongous!  Most funding to support this immense R&D effort comes from U.S. citizens via their tax payments to the federal government, and from the profits spent by large and small commercial businesses.

 

[1]  Sargent, Jr., J.F., for the Congressional Research Service, 2014.  The U.S. science and engineering workforce: recent, current, and projected employment, wages, and unemployment.  Available on the internet at:  http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43061.pdf .

[2]  National Science Foundation, 2016.  Table 4-17.  In: Science and Engineering Indicators 2016.  Available on the internet at:  http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2016/nsb20161/report .

[3]  Yamaner, M., for the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, 2016a.  TABLE 1.  Federal obligations for research and development and R&D plant, by type of R&D: FYs 2012-16.  Available on the internet at:  http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2016/nsf16311/ .

[4]  Yamaner, M., for the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, 2016b.  TABLE 4.    Federal obligations for research, by broad field of science and engineering and agency in rank order: FY2014.  Available on the internet at:  http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2016/nsf16311/ .

[5]  Yamaner, M., for the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, 2016c.  TABLE 2.  Federal obligations for research, by agency and type of research in FY 2014, rank order: FYs .2012-2016.  Available on the internet at:  http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2016/nsf16311/ .

[6]  National Science Foundation, 2016.  Table 4-7.  U.S. business R&D.  Funds spent for business R&D performed in the United States: 2008-2013.  In: Science and Engineering Indicators 2016.  Available on the internet at:  http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2016/nsb20161/report/chapter-4/u-s-business-r-d .

 

GO BACK TO HOME PAGE    OR    SCROLL UP TO MENU UNDER THE WEBSITE TITLE

UNTAUGHT LESSONS ARE LEARNED IN GRADUATE SCHOOL! 

 

Graduate schools teach much about science and research outside of classes! (http://dr-monsrs.net)
Graduate schools teach much about science and research outside of classes! (http://dr-monsrs.net)

 

Earning a doctoral degree in science is required in order to become a professional research scientist.  Typically, the long period of learning about science and research in graduate school takes 3-10 years, and is followed by intensive research experience as a semi-independent postdoctoral fellow for several more years.  Much of what is learned is not in textbooks, but instead comes from personal observations, disagreements, trying to solve problems, and work experience.  Brief stories by scientists about their individual experiences in graduate school often appear in the “Working Life” section of Science, and nicely illustrate some important unspoken lessons for graduate students; here, I discuss several stressful issues raised in 2 informative essays recently published by young scientists [1,2].

Realizations about science by a new Assistant Professor! 

“Three lessons rarely taught” by Dr. Piotr Wasylczyk [1] describes important concepts about research work and the traditional academic career, that he learned during his extensive education.  His mentors advised him to have fun doing research and even to regard research instruments as special toys for adults to play with.  That philosophy is increasingly hard to maintain due to the demanding pressures generated by the business aspects of trying to be successful as a university scientist.  Dr. Wasylczyk states with sincerity, “Talking to other scientists, both young and mature, I see how difficult it can be to enjoy research.”  This shocking realization is true, but contradicts the advice given by his mentors about having fun doing science; I predict he might later join many other university scientists who are dismayed and distressed with their disgusting job problems (see: “Why are University Scientists Increasingly Upset with Their Job?  Part II.” ).

A third piece of advice Dr. Wasylczyk received is very fundamental, and he is determined to pass this insight on to his own graduate students: “Taking risks is the essence of research.”  Most non-scientists and beginning scientists do not understand that research always is chancy, experiments sometimes do not produce the data expected, and results in the lab cannot be guaranteed.  By taking chances, research still is able to advance and produce important new knowledge; this reality is very different from the gospel that research success always comes to those who follow ‘the scientific method’, as taught to all students in secondary schools and colleges.

Realizations about money in science by a current graduate student! 

“Show us the money” is an article by Andy Tay [2] describing his mental and emotional responses to suddenly being notified by his thesis advisor in graduate school that cessation of a research grant means he must make some major changes.  While trying to overcome this unexpected interruption in his research training he discovered several new realizations about becoming a research scientist: (1) he had previously received little instruction about the very strong role of money in scientific research (see: “Money Now is Everything in Scientific Research at Universities” ), (2) any changes in research grant status can negatively affect many persons besides the grant-holder (i.e., graduate students, post-docs, and research technicians), and (3) when research grant sponsorship of graduate students is disrupted, this unanticipated crisis event often forces making big changes in career paths and plans.  To his credit, Tay talked to other graduate students and found that “I’m not the only student whose training has faced potential disruption because of an adviser’s changing funding situation.”  That is very true, but is rarely recognized or discussed until this problem suddenly happens!

By going down the traditional pathway to becoming a faculty scientist, Tay will later encounter even larger problems with money.  Almost everything in a university science career now depends upon money, and the scientist with the most money from research grants is labeled to be the best.  Finding the truth or making a truly breakthrough discovery now matters much less than getting many research grant dollars.  Thus, research grants are both good and bad (see: “Research Grants Cause Both Joy and Despair for University Scientists!” )!  My own belief is that the conversion of university science into a business where profits are the true end necessarily distorts science, perverts research, and encourages corruption; this atmosphere of degeneration is literally destroying scientific research in modern universities (see:  “Could  Science and Research Now be  Dying?” ).

Discussion! 

I encourage all current and future graduate students to read and study these 2 short dispatches [1,2]!  Graduate students must be made much more aware of the challenges they will face in their careers, and of the fact that scientific research at universities has changed from what it is supposed to be.  Andy Tay should be given much praise for organizing local meetings with other graduate students to discuss these issues.  Postdoctoral research associates, who are a few years further along this career pathway, now are organizing discussions and proposals for dealing with several large problems in their education and status as young professional scientists [3].  Graduate students and postdocs can see that scientists researching in universities now are trapped into being business people chasing money, and good research is increasingly difficult within the destructive atmosphere now prevailing in many educational institutions.

Concluding remarks! 

The essays by a new faculty member, Dr. Piotr Wasylczyk, and a beginning graduate student, Andy Tay, will help stimulate the badly needed revisions in graduate school education for scientists.  I hope that they will continue spreading the word about these issues, and wish both of them much good luck in their further research efforts!

 

[1]  Wasylczyk, P., June 10, 2016.  Three lessons rarely taughtScience  352:1358.  science.sciencemag.org/content/352/6291/1358.full .

[2]  Tay, A., June 17, 2016.  Show us the money.  Science  352:1486.

[3]  McDowell, G., 2016.  Postdocs driving change: the National Postdoctoral Association (NPA) meeting 2015.  Available on the internet at:  http://www.ascb.org/postdocs-driving-change-the-national-postdoctoral-association-npa-meeting-2015/ .

 

GO BACK TO HOME PAGE    OR    SCROLL UP TO MENU UNDER THE WEBSITE TITLE